With technology never more than a moment away from our fingertips and the pressure to be always doing something dictating our every step, our minds are in a constant state of information overload. Yet, if the current state of the world has taught us anything, it’s that time is precious—time to pause, time to reflect, and time to focus on your mental wellbeing. One of the easiest ways to do so is through conscious breathing. Carving out a few minutes to actively engage in this simple practice not only helps you momentarily escape from the external stressors of reality but also helps achieve a sense of inner peace you can then channel as you go about the rest of your day. “When we breathe, we seldom breathe consciously—rather our breathing pattern becomes a reaction to a state of being or is constantly influenced by our environment,” says Shadi Enbashi, co-founder of Dubai-based wellness center SEVA Experience. “Yet the potential for reversing the order is very much possible and doable, for everyone has the ability to manipulate their state of being through breathing.”
Here, Enbashi shares three soothing breathing exercises we can all add to our daily schedule no matter where we are to recenter our mind and ground ourselves in the present.
• Deep breathing: Lie down or sit comfortably with the back straight and start deep inhalation through the nose and deep exhalations through the mouth.
• Belly breathing or abdominal breathing: Put a hand on your chest and a hand on your stomach, whether sitting or laying down on your back. Breathe in through your nose for about two seconds. You should experience the air moving through your nostrils into your abdomen, making your stomach expand. During this type of breathing, make sure your stomach is moving outward while your chest remains relatively still.
• Alternate nostril breathing: Using the thumb of your right hand, close off your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril. Then immediately switch and use your index finger to close off your left nostril and exhale through your right nostril. Next, inhale through the right nostril then switch by releasing your index finger off the left nostril and close off your right nostril with your thumb so you exhale through the left nostril.
While this trio of exercises has “tremendous” short- and long-term benefits as a “natural remedy to balance oneself and bring calmness“, each individually also has its own unique positive effects, explains Enbashi. “One of the biggest benefits of diaphragmatic breathing is reducing stress and improving your core muscle stability. Being stressed keeps your immune system from working at full capacity. Deep breathing can improve digestion and lower blood pressure, while alternate nostril breathing can relax your body and mind and reduce anxiety.”
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How often should people dedicate time to breathwork sessions in order to reap its extensive rewards? Enbashi recommends they be implemented as the “first thing before getting out of bed and the last thing before going to bed”—especially at a time when a few moments of zen may be just what we need to start and end our day on a good note. “A daily routine of conscious breathing with the intention to uplift one’s health can be experienced instantly and will show benefits after just a few days of committing to 5-10 minutes a day,” reveals the wellness entrepreneur.
For those who have never practiced conscious breathing, one of the foremost aspects to keep in mind is that your attitude sets the tone for how successful your session will be. “The intention is very important and often overlooked in everyday acts, so you can intend to be present before each session,” says Enbashi. With distractions running rampant both outside and inside our minds, that may be easier said than done. However, the key to focusing your attention and clearing your thoughts on everything but the exercise on hand is to create an ambient space that supports this type of meditative atmosphere. “Be in a comfortable setting, make yourself relax, and if practicing while sitting on a chair, have the soles of your feet grounded on the floor with the back straight and shoulders relaxed,” recommends Enbashi. “Use an eye mask if possible, else closing your eyes while keeping the forehead relaxed can do. Start each session with a gentle smile, while expressing kindness and love towards yourself. ”
Regardless of where and how you practice, at the end of the day, everyone’s wellbeing journey is their own and they must patiently explore what works best for them with an open heart and mind as they embark on this ongoing path of self-discovery. As Enbashi aptly reminds us, “There is no destination in such practices, rather it is a journey that you become as you pick up one of the most powerful and ancient teachings that are ever known to humanity.”